Sunday, November 4, 2012

Parliament Buildings, Stormont Estate, Belfast

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European Heritage Open Days rolled round once again in early September. This year I said that I was going to be ready. This year we would get involved. This year we would get out and see some stuff! I downloaded the brochure and made my list – this year we were going to concentrate on what is on our own doorstep: East Belfast. Despite my best intentions, fate (and work) intervened to ensure that I only got to see one heritage building … but what a building it is!

With the creation of the Northern Ireland home rule region in the Government of Ireland Act 1920 there was a need to provide the province with a dedicated building for parliamentary debate. The building that we see today was designed by Sir Arnold Thornely, though it had originally been envisaged as but one component of a much grander complex. The original plan was to create a large, domed building with two side buildings, to house all three branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial. These larger-scale plans were never brought to fruition because of the economic downturn in Europe, which resulted from the 1929 Stock Market crash in the US. The building is in the Greek classical style, fronted in Portland stone, and was opened in 1932.

Unfortunately, visitors are only allowed to take photographs outside and in the Great Hall … so I present just a small collection of photographs from the site. It is an exquisite building that the general public rarely get a chance to see close-up:

Coming up the hill to the main façade.  I hadn't realised that the six pillars are intended to represent the six counties of Northern Ireland ... you learn something new every day!
Detail of light-post base.
Side view, approaching from south-east.

View from the front gates, looking down the avenue.
The Great Hall with life-size statue of James Craig, 1st Viscount Craigavon on the landing of the staircase.

The ceiling of the Great Hall. The large gilded chandeliers were a gift from King George V, and they had originally hung in Windsor Castle. Prior to this, they had been a gift of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, but had been removed at the outbreak of WWI. 
Detail of the Viscount Craigavon statue.
View of the Great Hall from the first floor gallery

The tomb of Lord Craigavon and his wife, on the grounds of Parliament buildings.

The tomb of Lord Craigavon and his wife. End view.

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